Over 45? Rejuvenate Your Job Search and Get Hired

by Salary.com Staff - Original publish date: January 16, 2012

The proportion of older workers participating in the labor force is at an all-time high.

The problem is, when this group of workers gets down-sized out of a job, they spend much longer looking for new employment than their younger colleagues. 

This article offers job search tips to help level the playing field and get older people re-employed as soon as possible.

Tip 1: Cut years off your resume

No matter what your age is, include only relevant experiences on your resume. Hiring managers don't want to wade through unrelated skills or positions to find why you're valuable to them.

This also means you can cut years off your resume. Eliminate older work titles. They are probably not very relevant anyway. If there is some older experience you feel is important but not specifically relevant, leave out the dates and list it among "Other Experience."

There is no need to include your year of graduation. The institution and type of degree will suffice.

Tip 2: Take advantage of resources

There are hundreds of organizations that exist to help people find work, and many specifically cater to the older workforce. Your local library, senior center and career center are great starting points. 

Also, check out AARP, SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives), and the National Council on Aging. Not old enough to benefit from those groups? Get Googling. Use search terms like "older workforce."

Tip 3: Things to keep to yourself

Just as you should delete older dates from your resume, avoid referring to your 20 or 30 years of experience during an interview. It will instantly age even the hippest, most youthful-looking candidate.

If your kids are in college or older, or if you have grandchildren, do not mention it. You'll have plenty of time to discuss your kids after you get the job. No need to risk jeopardizing your chances prematurely.

And be aware of sneaky interview questions, like those designed to find out your year of graduation or your age. Although illegal, these can be brought up in a chummy, casual way, and then used against you.

Tip 4: Keep fashion forward

Are your shoes, glasses, handbag, suit or hairstyle more than five years old? If so, you may want to enlist the help of a more fashionable friend or relative to update your look. Go for fresh, not young.

Buy a few classic, but still trendy, wardrobe pieces at a stylish, contemporary store like J. Jill, Ann Taylor Banana Republic, or T.J. Maxx. No need to spend a fortune. Just remember, frumpy equals old.

If your hairstyle hasn't changed since the Clinton administration, get thee to a hair salon ASAP. Ask the stylist to give you a younger (but appropriate) style and maybe highlights or a new color.

Tip 5: Update your technical skills

Do a majority of the jobs you're interested in require a skill set you don't have? Instead of ignoring this "one little thing," like HTML, Excel, Powerpoint, InDesign, word, etc., use this time to learn it.

If a second language would be an advantage in your field, why not take a night class and brush up on your rusty college Spanish, Chinese or whatever so you will have an edge over other applicants?

Not familiar with Facebook or Twitter? Ask a young friend to get you up to speed. Social media is no longer a trend of the future. It's here now...to stay...and most companies use it to market themselves.

Tip 6: Emphasize your value

Chances are, if you've worked for many years, you have many accomplishments. Emphasize relevant successes, like promotions and positive results, especially those you can put into monetary terms.

Remember, because you are older, you offer many benefits, such as persistence, patience, maturity, reliability, and a wide range of knowledge and experience that younger colleagues can't yet claim.

Focus on messaging about the wisdom and track record you offer and your interviewer will undoubtedly see your superior value, especially when compared to youth and inexperience.

Tip 7: Consider consulting

In this economy, many companies are hiring freelancers and consultants to avoid paying full-time salary and benefits. If you like making your own hours and working independently, this could be ideal for you.

Marketing, design, human resources, accounting, management, computer and information systems, and conservation of the environment are a few of the most popular consulting fields.

If you're technically inclined, you can often work from home. You can also work as a contractor for a company, agreeing to work a set amount of hours either at their offices, from home or both.

Tip 8: Work part time or volunteer

Working part time is a great way to stay in the workforce and keep your skills honed and your mind sharp. It can also lead to great connections and networking and ultimately full-time job offers.

Sharing your expertise by substitute teaching is a good way to stay youthful and on your toes while looking for more permanent situations. And you also gain a new experience to add to your resume.

Similarly, volunteering, while it doesn't pay, is a valuable opportunity to learn new skills, meet people, help others and feel immensely useful.

Tip 9: Be flexible about pay and benefits

Often it's the higher salary expectations of a more experienced candidate that causes him or her to lose out to a younger counterpart.

If you can afford to, let potential employers know you are willing and able to work for less than you have in the past.

Or, if you have medical benefits or a 401K already, let them know you don’t need theirs.

Tip 10: Take a leap of faith

Sometimes it takes a giant jolt to your routine to make you examine your situation and your options.

Perhaps you've been so worried about finding a job that you didn't see the potential opportunity of a lifetime that's suddenly come your way. Could it finally be time to follow your passion? Think about it.

You've worked for years, decades even, to provide for your family and be the person you were expected to be. Is it possible you are in a position now to rethink your options and be the person you want to be?


Tip 11: Exercise for confidence and success

Face it, people who exercise regularly look younger and feel more vibrant. Also, if you exercise in the morning before work, meetings or interviews, you'll feel more powerful and exude more confidence.

Begin a new exercise regimen or step up an existing one to give yourself an endorphin boost and a healthier, younger appearance. No matter how old you are, if you are fit people notice and admire you.


Tip 12: Take advantage of your extensive network

One thing about being of a "certain age," you've met lots of people. By now your network should be pretty intricate.

Don't hesitate to reach out to family, friends (old and new), former colleagues, business associates, vendors, neighbors, anyone who might be able to offer a word of recommendation, an introduction or just a suggestion or lead. Don't be shy. You've cultivated this network, now utilize it.

Tip 13: Know your rights

Hopefully you will never be turned down or let go from a job due to your age. But if it happens you do have recourse so it pays to know your rights.

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 protects certain applicants and employees 40 years of age and older from discrimination on the basis of age in hiring, promotion, discharge, compensation, or terms, conditions or privileges of employment. 

The law is enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Anyone who believes his or her employment rights have been violated may file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC.

Tip 14: Age-proof your attitude

Before you can convince an employer that you are the perfect candidate, you must first convince yourself. Remind yourself of all the fabulous traits and specific value you have to offer a company.

Your experience, reliability, wisdom, common sense, patience etc. are all valuable assets you've developed over the years. And these are traits many young folks don't yet have in abundance. 

Don't be defensive about your age. Go into your search with a positive, confident attitude about all you have to offer. This will make you feel and appear younger. And get you the job.